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Tag: Sir Simon Rattle

Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Haydn’s “The Seasons” 2009 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

According to Sir Simon Rattle himself, there are few other composers with whom he has a closer relationship than with Haydn – it was “love at first sight” when he encountered these works as a young musician. The public has this relationship to thank for many happy musical moments. Gramophone wrote about Rattle’s recording of Haydn symphonies: “Anyone sceptical of the pairing of the words ‘Berlin Philharmonic’ and ‘Haydn’ is in for a delightful surprise. While not trying to ape the lighter sound of period instruments, this heavyweight orchestra under Rattle’s inspired baton is suddenly spry, light on its feet, alert to the smallest changes of accent and nuance.”

With this approach, Rattle and his orchestra took on Haydn’s oratorio The Seasons in 2009: a work which entrances through its magnificence and its basically sunny disposition. Both conductor and the Philharmoniker have performed this oratorio together before, in March 2003 – a concert which Die Welt called “the highlight so far” of Rattle’s first season as chief conductor in Berlin. Two of the soloists from that performance can also be heard in this concert: soprano Christiane Oelze and baritone Thomas Quasthoff. They will be joined on this occasion by tenor John Mark Ainsley.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Haydn’s “Oxford” Symphony and Brahms’s First" 2008 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

The fact that writing symphonies became increasingly difficult for composers after Beethoven can be established in purely quantitative terms. None of them came even close to Haydn’s 104 works in the genre, and even Beethoven’s nine, regarded with superstition by Gustav Mahler, for example, were surpassed by only a few composers, among them Dmitri Shostakovich.

As we know, Johannes Brahms was particularly plagued by doubts; he worked on his First Symphony for fourteen years before presenting it to the public. The First Piano Concerto, which was for a time planned as a symphony, and the two serenades for orchestra are also considered steps along the way to the king of instrumental genres. The fact that the composer obviously takes up a theme from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the finale of his C minor Symphony, which was finally premiered in 1876, can be interpreted as a sign of self-confidence. Brahms had assumed the legacy of his great predecessor and no longer had to worry about being an inferior imitator.

In November 2008, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle preceded Brahms’s symphonic debut with Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 92, which owes its nickname Oxford to a presumed performance in the English university town. Sir Simon once declared that he was “crazy about Haydn” and added that this music could only be performed successfully with love and respect for the composer. Sir Simon mentions other requirements of Haydn interpreters: “A wealth of ideas, curiosity, willingness to improvise. And one must be friendly! The music must have its starting point in humanity.”

Note: Another work heard at this concert was a piano concerto by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which may not be shown in the Digital Concert Hall for contractual reasons.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Fourth concert in the Brahms / Schumann cycle with Simon Rattle 2014 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

As early as the second half of the 1850s, Johannes Brahms collaborated on publishing Robert Schumann’s posthumous works. He championed the original versions of both the Andante with Variations op. 46 and the D minor Symphony – Schumann had fundamentally revised the symphony, originally composed and premiered in 1841, ten years subsequently and had it printed as “No. 4”. Brahms preferred the first version, primarily because of its more transparent sound, and brought about – much to the displeasure of Schumann’s widow Clara – a separate edition of that composition. It differs from the later version in its instrumentation, quicker tempi and the shorter introduction to the finale. Wrapping up the Philharmoniker’s Schumann / Brahms cycle, Sir Simon Rattle too decided in favour of the rarely heard first version of the D minor Symphony. He explains his vote for the early version of the work saying that Schumann in 1851 did indeed “use in principle exactly the same material, the same notes,” but transformed “a symphony full of lightness, grace and beauty into a symphony of gloom, delusion and compulsion.”

The programme continues with Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, composed in 1884–85, about which even before the premiere Hans von Bülow enthusiastically reported to his Berlin concert agent Hermann Wolff: “No. 4 mammoth, quite idiosyncratic, very new, iron individuality. Breathes an unparalleled energy from a to z.” Joseph Joachim noted on the occasion of the first Berlin performance on 1 February 1886: “The downright gripping pull of the whole thing, the denseness of the concoction, the wonderfully convoluted growth of the motives, even more than the abundance and beauty of individual passages have really had a profound effect on me so that I almost believe that the E minor is my favourite among the four symphonies.”

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Berliner Philharmoniker – First concert in the Brahms / Schumann cycle with Simon Rattle 2014 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

When Robert Schumann presented Johannes Brahms to the music world as an exceptionally gifted pianist and composer of chamber music and lieder in his “New Paths” article in the Leipzig Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, he also pointed the way into a future full of hope for the young man, who was then 20 years old: “If he lowers his magic staff where the massed forces of chorus and orchestra give their powers, then we shall yet have even more wondrous glimpses into the secrets of the spiritual world. May the highest spirit of genius strengthen him for this .” Brahms, who made a pilgrimage to Düsseldorf in October 1853, responded rather diffidently: “God grant that my work soon give you proof of how very much your kindness lifted me.” The two of them agreed that the path to “great” symphonic writing would not be easy. Probably neither would have anticipated at that time, however, that more than 20 years were to pass until Brahms’s first symphony was completed. At that point Brahms, 43 years old, was the same age as Schumann when his compositional career broke off.

The remarkable parallels in the genres of the oeuvre of the two composers (each wrote three piano sonatas, three string quartets, three piano trios, three violin sonatas and four symphonies) makes it attractive to juxtapose them, as Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker are exploring in a cycle of their own. Unlike Schumann, whose ebullient First Symphony was “written in that springtime impulse which probably assails people every year anew,” Brahms’s First is a dark work in C minor that begins fatefully with a tremendous timpani ostinato; with its “per aspera ad astra” Finale, it links to the Beethoven tradition.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – European Concert 2011 from Madrid with Simon Rattle and Cañizares 2011 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Every year since 1991, the Berliner Philharmoniker have marked the anniversary of their foundation with a concert in a different cultural capital: for their twenty-first European Concert on 1 May 2011, they were the guests of the magnificent Teatro Real in Madrid. Their programme comprised the exuberant rhapsody España by the French composer Emmanuel Chabrier, Rachmaninov’s dramatic Second Symphony and a quintessential Spanish composition: Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez.

Schiller’s play Don Carlos famously opens with the line “The pleasant days here in Aranjuez are now drawing to a close”. Music lovers are more fortunate because thanks to Rodrigo’s immortal guitar concerto they can continue to savour the magical mood in the summer palace of the Spanish kings, especially when the soloist is a flamenco virtuoso like Cañizares, who can throw such fascinating light on every facet of this multi-layered score.

After the interval, the orchestra turn to Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, a relatively unknown work, which Sir Simon Rattle – a self-confessed fan of the composer – conducts without a score. As he noted afterwards, the orchestra “played the hell out of it”, resulting, in the opinion of the press, in a thrilling and very special experience. “The orchestra was urged on by Rattle’s impulsive direction, playing with brio and unleashing wave after wave of tension, turning the symphony’s sweeping movements into a self-contained and thrilling whole.”

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Berliner Philharmoniker – European Concert 2008 from Moscow 2008 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

The fall of the Berlin Wall coincided in many people’s minds with the fall of another geographical wall, when they were reminded of an item of information that they had acquired at school, namely, the belief that Europe extends as far east as the Urals. The Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle were keen to promote this expansion of a European perspective, which is why they gave their 2008 European Concert in the Great Hall of Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Conservatory.

The orchestra had first performed in this venerable hall in 1969, and in spite of their extremely cool reception by the Soviet authorities, their concert had proved to be a milestone in their history: at the end Dmitri Shostakovich had personally thanked Herbert von Karajan for his interpretation of his Tenth Symphony. Some forty years later Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements ensured that the concert had a Russian dimension, as did Vadim Repin as the soloist in Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor. Even though he had not studied at the Moscow Conservatory, Repin must have felt a certain frisson that evening when standing on exactly the same spot as David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan had done before him.

The concert ended with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. In the spring of 2008 Rattle and the Philharmoniker had performed their first joint Beethoven cycle in Berlin, before taking these works on tour throughout the Baltic and Scandinavia. According to the critic of the Berlin Tagesspiegel, these performances were “full of spirit, without false emotion, offering a crystalline and yet fully integrated sound: Beethoven for the 21st century”.

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London Symphony Orchestra & Sir Simon Rattle – Berlioz: La damnation de Faust (2019) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

London Symphony Orchestra & Sir Simon Rattle – Berlioz: La damnation de Faust (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 02:05:53 minutes | 2,44 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © LSO Live

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra mark 150 years since the death of Hector Berlioz with his tempestuous oratorio, La damnation de Faust.

La damnation de Faust is a work born of the composer’s obsession with Goethe’s legendary tale. Once a righteous scholar, Faust allows himself to be corrupted by the devil, and drags the innocent around him into desperation and death. It’s a fable that defies definition – both a tragedy and dark comedy, with a central character both wise and despicable, and a play and epic poem in one.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Conclusion of the Sibelius cycle with Simon Rattle 2015 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

In his Fifth Symphony, which ends with a grandiose song of nature, Sibelius again applied himself to the “big tone” in the traditional heroic key: E flat major. The work ends with a highly effective finale, in essence based on a figure in the winds that the composer himself designated a “swan hymn”: “Today at ten to eleven I saw 16 swans. One of my greatest experiences! The Fifth Symphony’s Finale-theme: Legato in the trumpets!!”

Sibelius’s Sixth, in contrast, which largely dispenses with the otherwise typical rhapsodic discontinuities and contradictions and also has markedly concertante characteristics, lives from a never-ending flow of the melodic figures, set out in front of listeners in filigree, polyphonic curved lines. The music of a romantic impetus is enhanced in the Finale “in a dark orchestral roar in which the main theme drowns” (Sibelius), before a melancholy string movement leads to the conclusion.

How much Sibelius had departed in his symphonic works from the traditional canon of forms can last be heard in his one-movement Seventh Symphony, premiered as Fantasia sinfonica, which Simon Rattle performs directly following the Sixth: starting from an adagio tone in the strings reminiscent of Mahler, the music progresses through many stages to a fateful climax, before a Largamente conclusion again takes up the plaintive character of the beginning. This performance of Symphomies Nos. 5, 6 and 7 concluded Sir Simon Rattle’s Sibelius cycle with the Philharmoniker from 2015.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Bruckner’s Ninth and Schreker’s Chamber Symphony (2008) 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Anton Bruckner did not quite reach the – since Beethoven – magical boundary of nine completed symphonies. For him as well, the Ninth, which, like Beethoven’s, is in D minor, was to remain his last symphony; despite a complete outline and extensive sketch material, the composer was nevertheless unable to finish the Finale. Thus, Bruckner’s symphonic legacy, which he dedicated to the “beloved God”, contrary to every tradition ended with a slow movement – and in the “wrong” key of E major.

Although the work complies with the strict thematic and dramaturgical architecture we know from the composer’s earlier symphonies, at the same time the far more radical and, in passages, shockingly dissonant harmony seems to fling the door to modernism wide open. Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker performed the symphony in September 2008 in the three-movement version, before presenting a completed version of the last movement, reconstructed from the sketches, in 2012.

Whereas Anton Bruckner suffered from a lack of public recognition all his life and was not acknowledged as one of the most important composers until after his death, the situation of his Austrian countryman Franz Schreker was just the opposite. After the phenomenal success of his operas, in particular, he was almost completely forgotten when the National Socialists came to power. Deprived of his positions by the new regime, the composer died in Berlin in 1934. Not until the 1970s did a Schreker renaissance begin, which led to a rediscovery of both his operas and instrumental works.

The Chamber Symphony, which was composed in 1916 for an anniversary of the Vienna Academy of Music and Performing Arts, shows Schreker at the height of his seductively dazzling artistry. As a master of transition, the composer lets his thematic inspirations develop from each other metamorphically. The traditional sequence of movements is still recognizable, but flows together in a single stream of sound. Simon Rattle conducts the work with the Orchestra Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Simon Rattle conducts Brahms’s Symphonies No. 3 and 4 (2008) 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

As difficult as it was for Johannes Brahms on his path to the symphony, overshadowed by the giant Beethoven, after his C minor debut in this genre was presented to the public in 1876 the spell seemed to be broken. The Second Symphony already appeared during the following year, and Nos. 3 and 4 were also premiered in comparatively quick succession in 1883 and 1885. After that, Brahms composed only one more work for large orchestra, his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello.

Thus, it is quite possible that the composer deliberately ended his symphonic work with the Fourth Symphony in E minor. His historical retrospection in the fourth movement, which takes up the Baroque model of the passacaglia, also suggests this. The unusually dense and intellectual conception initially caused the composer himself to doubt that it would find success with the public. With his characteristic odd self-irony he wrote to his close friend Elisabeth von Herzogenberg: “In general my pieces are unfortunately more agreeable than I am, and one finds less in them to correct?! But in these parts the cherries do not become sweet and edible – so if the thing doesn’t taste good to you, don’t bother yourself about it.” Posterity did not confirm the composer’s scepticism – the Fourth Symphony has long been one of the most popular compositions in the concert repertoire.

During their in-depth exploration of Brahms, in this concert from November 2008 Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker played the composer’s Fourth Symphony before the Third. In his Third Symphony Brahms achieves the unity between movements that was considered obligatory since Beethoven’s Ninth by, among other things, bringing the opening motif of the first movement back at the end of the finale. The theme of the Poco allegretto achieved a certain prominence in popular culture: it not only served as the theme music in the Ingrid Bergman film Goodbye Again but was also quoted extensively in Carlos Santana’s song Love of My Life.

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